Wednesday, March 30, 2016

#PenguinTeenOnTour Does Dallas

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 with 4 comments
As I posted earlier this month, the #PenguinTeenOnTour promotion stopped at Half Price Books in Dallas last night and featured some pretty spectacular auhors: Allison Goodman, Sabaa Tahir, Rachel Hawkins, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Alwyn Hamilton. I was even given the opportunity to interview one of the authors prior to the event -- you can check that out below.

I'm one of the most introverted booknerds you'll ever meet, so I was nervous but it was an awesome opportunity that I just could not pass up. Especially after the pep talk my friend Sabrina gave me. =) Despite a couple snafus -- my hubby had to work late so he couldn't pick up the kiddo, meaning I had to drive an hour from work to home to pick her up from daycare and then back again since I only work about five minutes from Half Price Books (very dangerous, especially during lunch!), plus the author I was originally supposed to interview was delayed in Canada -- it all culminated into a very lovely event.

Before the event, I left Katie holding our seats up front and met up with the adorable Amanda from Penguin, who introduced me to Rachel Hawkins, who'd I'd be interviewing in lieu of Alison Goodman, as she was delayed en route to Dallas. Honestly, this last minute swap actually put me more at ease because I follow Rachel on Twitter and I know how down-to-earth and funny she is. Not that Alison isn't the same, but she's an Aussie and such a serious writerly-type that I was a bit intimidated. (But let's be honest...I find all authors a bit intimidating, which is why I laugh like a crazy person and mumble when it's actually time to talk to them, lol.)

So. I'm going to share my interview with Rachel -- which I recorded and it took me forever to transcribe this monring since I'm, ahem, supposed to be working -- and then some highlights from the event itself. Enjoy! =D

With Rachel Hawkins, author of the Rebel Belles series

Jen: For those who haven’t read the Rebel Belle books yet, give me the elevator pitch for the series.
Rachel: The Rebel Belle series is about a Southern debutante who gets super powers and has to protect a boy who sees the future who just happens to be her lifelong nemesis.

Jen: What inspired you to write the Rebel Belle series?
Rachel: I wanted to write something a) that was sort of set in the contemporary South which is where I’m from and b) also I wanted to write a book where I felt like a lot of the times girls like Harper the sort of head cheerleader, SGA president, overachieving type A type are the villains of a lot of YA books, and that’s not always been the case, I think. When I was in high school, those overachieving girls were actually very lovely people, they were very community-minded and that sort of thing. I wanted that kind of girl to be the heroine of her own story.
Jen: Love it! I’ve read the first book and YES to all of that.

Jen: What’s your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Rachel: Lololol. Uh, my writing process…a little bit of a plotter, a little bit of a pantser. So, I like to have an idea of where I’m going…I don’t just sort of dive in. I do something that I call the Mac Draft, which is when I come up with the idea for a book, I wait until I have a few scenes in mind and I go ahead and then I write those scenes, like the things that I know and then I can start sort of filling in. And so that way, it helps, too…I don’t really start writing the book until I’ve got about 15-20,000 words of those kind of scenes like that, and then it helps me see, okay, well, I was like really looking at the front of the book, like I’ve got a lot of stuff from the beginning but I really am not strong on the end and need to work there. Or, a lot of stuff from the middle, not so much from the beginning…need to work there. So, I found like that helps, and it also….I like writing things that I feel excited about. I don’t like putting off a scene that I’m really excited to write, just because it’s not the right time to write it. I feel like writing is so hard, so when you’re excited to write something like why shouldn’t you? You should sit down and write that right then and capture that, I think. And I think it comes across in the writing more often than not.
Jen: Definitely!

Jen: Which of your characters would you most like to go out and have a drink with?
Rachel: Oh, man…the aunts from the Rebel Belle books. Aunt Jewel is the main one. I had an Aunt Ruby and so that’s my little homage to her. They seem like they would be fun to have a drink with. I love old Southern ladies.
Jen: You’d fit right in here, then. 

Jen: If your characters were sorted into Hogwarts houses, which would they be?
Rachel: Oh, I got this. This has been, like, our favorite question on tour. So, Harper is for sure Slytherin, which I feel maybe a controversial statement, but as a Slytherin myself, I think she’s ambitious. And David is for sure Ravenclaw, although I think I may have called him Hufflepuff in another interview, so maybe he’s a Ravenpuff…or a Huffleclaw. Sailor is a Ravenclaw; Bee is a Hufflepuff.
Jen: I love the hybrid houses! I’m a bit of a Gryffinclaw myself.

Jen: I always love hearing what authors are reading (and getting recommendations!). So, what’s currently on your nightstand?
Rachel: I just read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, which is if Jane Eyre were a serial killer and it is AMAZING, like I loved it…it is SO good. I consumed it over tour and it was the most fun. I also read – it comes out in June – Kiersten White’s And I Darken…it’s amazing. I highly recommend it; it’s a totally different direction for Kiersten and I blurbed the heck out of it because I liked it so much. What else am I looking forward to??? I’m always excited for anything Victoria Schwab writes, and she’s got a new YA coming out in the summer.
Jen: Yes! I’ve already read it and it was AWESOME!
Rachel: I know [she and I've] talked about it because we’re friends but I haven’t read it yet.
Jen: Yeah, you’ll like it.
Rachel: Ah, I’m excited!

Jen: So, what book are you an evangelist for, that you wish you could force everyone to read and love?
Rachel: I feel like that for everything I read…so whatever the most recent thing that I’ve been reading is. I’ve been pushing Red Rising on all my friends lately. Because I wasn’t gonna read it because I was like, oh, I’m sort of over dystopian, things with people sorted by colors, but it wasn’t that at all. The first book, maybe a little more so, but after that it’s like space-crack, and I love it so much.
Jen: Haha, space-crack…I like that!

Jen: Is there an upcoming book that you’d battle the supernatural to get your hands on before it’s released?
Rachel: I mean, obviously, The Winds of Winter…like everyone else in the entire world right now. I’ve been a George R. R. Martin fan since the early 2000s, and I love those books very dearly.
Jen: I’m so not with it…I haven’t read the books or watched the show yet.
Rachel: That’s okay, though. Read the books…the show has disappointed me greatly in the past couple of years. I’ll still watch it because it’s like if the Harry Potter movies were bad, you know you’d still keep watching them, and that’s how I feel about the show.

Jen: So, what other projects are you currently working on?
Rachel: I have a middle grade coming out in October called Journey’s End and that’s also coming out from Penguin. I currently have a YA contemporary romance that my editor is looking at right now that I hope she really likes. It’s about Scotland and princes and shenanigans.
Jen: Oh, shenanigans!!!
Rachel: It’s kind of crazy.

Jen: Okay, last question! What’s one question that you never get asked that you wish someone would ask you in an interview?
Rachel: You know, I get asked so many good things. I don’t even know. If people could always ask me more about my cats because I can really spend a lot of time talking about my cats…like A LOT of time. And no one thinks it’s as interesting as I do, so yeah. People should ask me more about Nessie and Daenerys and Jasper Tudor.

About the author:

Rachel Hawkins was born in Virginia and raised in Alabama. This means she uses words like "y'all" and "fixin'" a lot, and considers anything under 60 degrees to be borderline Arctic. Before deciding to write books about kissing and fire (and sometimes kissing while on fire), Rachel taught high school English for 3 years, and is still capable of teaching you The Canterbury Tales if you're into that kind of thing.

She is married to a geologist, which means that they have incredibly strange dinner conversations ("So today at work, I wrote a chapter where killer fog, like, ATE PEOPLE." "Huh. Well, I was chased by an angry reindeer while trying to map parts of Norway." "Um...okay.")

Rachel also has a little boy whose main hobbies are playing video games, running around in circles, and plotting his Future Intergalactic Take-Over.

When not writing books, Rachel enjoys reading, travelling, and knitting (very terribly.)

Find Rachel:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | TumblrGoodreads

On to the event!

image source
Despite having gotten seats in the front row, I didn't take many pictures. And since I was sitting so close, I didn't get a picture of the group as a whole either, so I borrowed the one to the left from Half Price Books, who put on a really great event. =) I always love signings at this bookstore because they're so chill and laid back. But they're always dangerous, too...I don't think I've ever left this bookstore without purchasing something.

Mary from Mary Had a Little Blog was the moderator for this event, and it's always fun to see her at these things, even if we don't always get a chance to chat. If you haven't checked out her "Mary in the Library" series, you really should. It's funny and insightful and full of good information.

I recorded the audio from the event, and I may transcribe all 42 minutes of it at a later date, but for now, I'm just going to share some of my favorite moments and quotes from the panel.
- One of the questions asked was if the authors would be able to survive in the worlds of their books, to which Sabaa replied, "Absolutely not. I would be so dead."

- Alwyn, after explaining that she was sick and didn't know if she'd make it out of the airport..."If Amani could walk across an entire desert, I can walk across an airport."

- Writing advice from Rachel: "What do you do when your character has a perfect life? Ruin it!"

- On being a writer/being inspired to write, April says, "I realized I like playing god."

- When asked which literary character they'd like to be, Rachel responded that she'd love to be a hobbit, but she does "not have hairy feet. Please do not put that on the internet."

- April to Alwyn, after a discussion on weird things they've googled in the name of research: "When I drug you, Alwyn, you won't even know it."

- Writing advice from Allison: "Never have a passive character," and "Learn to love the rewriting process."

- When asked how to make action scenes better, Sabaa admitted that she makes her husband act out the fight scenes with her...and that she watches a lot of Kung Fu movies.

After the panel, Katie and I got in the signing line, though she kept wandering off to go look at books and toys. She was a real trooper, though. And she wanted to have Rachel's Hex Hall series personalized to her since I'd already given them to her after cleaning up my shelves a bit. She's eight, and though she's a mature eight, she's not quite ready for this series, but she wanted to make damn sure that I remember they're hers now. :)

I'd already chatted with Rachel earlier so I didn't mind letting Katie take the opportunity to talk to her and have her books signed while I was chatting with Alwyn about Rebel of the Sands. Alwyn was so gracious and chatty, despite being sick, and she wrote some of the best quotes in my copies of Rebel! I didn't feel like I spent nearly enough time with each of the authors, but I had 20+ books to get signed and I didn't want to hold them or the line up. :( Plus, as is always the case when faced with someone I admire, everything I'd wanted to say went out the window as soon as I was actually standing in front of them. o_O

All of the authors were elated to see that despite the fact that I had ARCs for their books, I also supported each of them by purchasing finished copies, too. I mean, duh...I want them to be able to write more amazing books! =D I think April was most surprised, though, because I collect her books and had an ARC and HC edition of each, plus I was getting an extra copy of Wink signed for a friend.

I'm kind of miffed that I was rushing myself so much that I didn't get pictures of me or Katie with the authors like I usually do, but it was closing in on her bedtime when we left as it was. Here's hoping we get the opportunity to meet these amazing women and authors again! I can't wait to read each and every one of their next books!!!

Such a great event, but the tour doesn't stop here! These lovely ladies are headed to California next, and the full event schedule can be found below:

Tuesday, March 22nd —MIAMI, FL
7:00 PM Public Event @ Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Wednesday, March 23rd —CINCINNATI, OH
7:00 PM Public Event @ Joseph-Beth Booksellers
5030 Oaklawn Drive, Suite B, Cincinnati, OH 45227

Thursday, March 24th — NASHVILLE, TN
6:30 PM Public Event @ Parnassus Books
3900 Hillsboro Pike Ste 14, Nashville, TN 37215

Friday, March 25th —ST. LOUIS, MO
7:00 PM Public Event w/ Karen Bao @ The Charles City-County Library – Spencer Road Branch
427 Spencer Rd., St. Peters, MO 63376

Saturday, March 26th—ST. PAUL, MN
6:30 PM Public Event w/ Karen Bao @ Red Balloon Bookshop
91 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105

Monday, March 28th—TORONTO, ON
2:00 PM Public Event @ Chapters Brampton
Market Hall, 52 Quarry Edge Drive, Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, March 29th—DALLAS, TX
7:00 PM Public Event @ Half Price Books
5803 E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 75231

Wednesday, March 30th—SAN DIEGO, CA
7:30 PM Public Event @ Mysterious Galaxy
5943 Balboa Avenue #100, San Diego, CA 92111

Thursday, March 31st—SAN JOSE, CA
7:00 PM Public Event @ Hicklebee’s
1378 Lincoln Ave, San Jose, CA 95125

Friday, April 1st—SAN FRANCISCO, CA
7:00 PM Public Event @ Books, Inc. Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102

I hope you have the chance to attend one of the remaining events or that you got to attend one of the previous stops. This was a truly amazing group of funny and charming and just all-around awesome!

Huge thanks to Penguin Teen, Half Price Books, Amanda and Rachel at Penguin, Mary, and all of the authors involved for putting this fantastic tour together! And big, big thanks to Rachel Hawkins for taking the time out of her busy schedule to be interviewed before the event!


  1. You did great with your interview!!! Very cool event! I love that your daughter got to go with you and meet the authors. My son is 8 also... did we ever discuss that our kids are the same age??? Anyway, whenever I leave an event, I'm always bummed that I don't take enough pictures. When I'm in the moment, I sometimes hate to stop and take pictures... but at the same time, it's nice to have them!! But seriously, GREAT interview.... you did a fab job!

    1. Ah, thanks! I was a nervous wreck before hand, but it was such a great experience. Now that I've done my first face-to-face interview, the next should be a piece of cake, right? Lol. I think I mentioned that my girl was 8, too, in a letter, but that was before you knew who I was/that I was your #otspsecretsister, so it probably didn't make your notice at the time. :) It's so awesome how many great bloggy friends I've made who are around my age with kids around the same age. And a little weird that we all have only-s. (So not sure how to spell onlies since I don't think it's a real word, but you know what I mean. :P) The picture thing is still bugging me because I should have at least been present enough to snap a pic of Katie getting her first books signed by an author, but at least she has the personalized books, right? ;0)

  2. I love it when you do event posts! =) I've been to one event where there were multiple authors, and it's so cool to see them interacting and feeding off one another. Wait...that sounds weird, lol! But you know what I mean. =D Glad you had a good time, and great interview!!

    1. I love it when I can make it TO the events, lol. And I do know what you mean...just seeing the authors joke around and kinda being in on the inside-jokes is great. And this group of ladies was SO much fun! Thanks!! Glad you enjoyed the interview!


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